A few months back, I came across a goddess that I had never heard of…Pheme. Sarah, blogging over at Blogging it like a goddess described her thus:
Pheme was a gossip and liked to play Chinese whispers. She was known for extending communications. Apparently she had numerous tongues eyes and ears so she didnt miss anything and she lived in a house with a 1000 windows. She usually stands with wings and a trumpet. She was always in trouble with both mortals and the gods for spreading gossip
Now, knowing that many Greek and Roman mythological beings became words or parts of words in English (and other languages, but that’s another subject) I was curious about Miss Pheme. Here is what I discovered. She did indeed give her name to an English word. First, according to Wikipedia, Pheme could either cause blessing (notability or fame) or a curse (scandalous rumors) and was described as “she who initiates and furthers communication.” But she was mainly a gossip, and as all gossips do, would start with a whisper but end like a trumpet call! Her name in both Greek and Latin is related to words such as “to speak” and “fame.”
Now what about now? Does Miss Pheme ever pop up in the English language? Probably not often, but ‘pheme’ is indeed an English word! Dictionary.Reference defines it as a noun meaning ” ‘words as grammatical units in a language,’ 1906, coined by U.S. philosopher Charles S. Pierce (1839-1914), from Greek pheme ‘speech, voice, utterance, a speaking,’ from PIE root *bha- (2) ‘to speak, tell, say’ (see fame (n.)). ” the base word ‘pheme’ can be found in such words as ‘morpheme’ –linguistics : a word or a part of a word that has a meaning and that contains no smaller part that has a meaning and ‘blaspheme’ – 1. To speak of (God or a sacred entity) in an irreverent, impious manner. 2. To revile; execrate.
So, now you know!